We’re approaching the final day of action at Birmingham's Commonwealth Games and as some of our team depart, we can start to reflect on what has been a memorable games for Pacific Oceania. The action still isn’t over and on day 9 we have a mix of Beach Volleyball, Boxing, Athletics, Squash and Wrestling to bring you the highlights for.
Beach Volleyball stars Miller Pata and Sherysyn Toko took centre stage on Saturday evening at the Commonwealth Games as they took on Taliqua Clancy and Mariafe Artacho del Solar from Australia for a place in the Gold medal match.
Both teams had 100% records so far and both hadn’t dropped a set. It was the Gold Coast Silver medallists vs Bronze medallists in Vanuatu.
Australia won the toss and they were the first team off the mark, which they quickly doubled, with another point to make it 2-0. An Aussie error gave Vanuatu their first point before a big spike by Sherysyn brought them level. If the start of this game was anything to go by, it would be a thriller for the crowd.
Vanuatu took the lead for the first time in the match with the scores at 6-5 before they raced into an 8-6 lead.
It was top quality Volleyball by both teams as they exchanged points. Vanuatu were rolling the ball over the net to perfection and found themselves 12-9 going into set one’s technical break.
Heading into the second half of the first set, Australia strung together a few points to bring it to a one-point game, Miller Pata hit some beautiful winners as the teams fought the control of the match.
An incredible rally between both teams ended when Sherysyn spiked the ball to give Vanuatu a 19-18 lead. The Australian pair dug in to produce a set point, however a super spike from Sherysyn saved it and the game was level.
Vanuatu were the next team to have a set point but a service error scuppered that chase. Both teams had another set point each but failed to capitalise. On the 50th point of the match and fourth set point Australia took the set 26-24.
Set two was a must win by Vanuatu to take the match to a decider and much like the first; the teams traded points. Australia set up some good play to see them take a three-point lead over Vanuatu.
Miller and Sherysn continued to play some top-class shots and the Australians matched that level. At the change of ends Australia had carved out a four-point lead and heading into the technical break that had extended to five.
A lovely ace from Miller closed the gap to four points, and just as Vanuatu started to claw back some of the deficit, Australia were able to step up once again. The highlight from the second set had to be an incredible rally, which saw both teams have their aerobic ability tested as they sprinted across the court to reach the ball. Vanuatu came out on top as Sherysyn calmly tipped the ball over the net.
Australia still managed to rack up the points and soon had match points. Miller and Sherysyn showed their class and determination as they saved two points easily. However, on the third attempt the Aussie pair converted and won the match.
It was a match where tiny margins made the difference. It was a spectacle for the crowds and showed why Vanuatu's team are so well regarded on the world stage.
Vanuatu will head into the bronze medal match tomorrow to face New Zealand and we will all be cheering them on.
After the match Miller said, “we want to say thank you for the support and prayers from people here and at home in Vanuatu.”
In an all-Pacific bout Tonga’s Sione Sika going head to head with Samoa’s Maulalo Alofipo in the Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 97kg division.
When the referee blew their whistle to signal the start of the contest both wrestlers attempted to get the advantage over their opponents and dominate the bout. As they grappled for control it was Samoa’s Maulalo who got the first point on the board, forcing Sione out of the ring to get one point.
The wrestler from Tonga gave it his all to get back level and attempted several manoeuvres, including bringing the Samoan to the floor. However, Sione’s opponent counter attacked, adding a further two points to his score by successfully performing a takedown.
Once play resumed Sione tried to change the course of the bout but unfortunately Samoa’s Maulalo was able to piece together several key moves to add 8 points onto his total and win the bout 11-0.
Reflecting on his preparation and time at the games Sione said, “It was an awesome bout and Maulalo was strong, very strong. My preparation has been tough with a lot of sacrifice but that is the sport. Wrestling is pretty much my bread and butter, and it is a tough sport.
Sione said there are a few people in his life that have helped him get to the Commonwealth Games, “My wife and kids have been massive supporters, it is hard to push yourself to go to training and my wife is always there to help me push through. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.”
Next up was John Vake competing in the Men's Freestyle Wrestling 74 kg - 1/8 Final. His opponent was Muhammad Sharif Tahir.
The wrestler from Pakistan got the first point on the board, as the players moved around the mat, John’s coach could be heard shouting encouragement from the sidelines, “My coach was saying to me to be a bit more aggressive and have a bit more contact.”
Trying to take his coach's words on board, John grappled with his opponent, trying to get a good grip on his legs so he could perform a move. Instead Muhammah Sharif Tahir took control and was able to string together several key moves to increase his score to 11-0, sealing the win.
Reflecting on his match John said, “it was a rough start, I needed to get the feeling of it a bit more, it is all about learning and I’ll keep going.”
John headed into the repechage with an opportunity to fight for a bronze medal if he was to win the match. Standing in his way was the Canadian Jasmit Phulka Singh, both wrestlers spent the first 30 seconds of the bout grappling for position. One minute in and neither of the competitors had made a decisive move.
The match changed when the Canadian rolled Tonga’s John Vake onto back to score two points and quickly followed this up with another two rolls to be 6-0 up. The Canadian continued to apply pressure and won the bout 11-0. John gave it his all over the two bouts and there are positives he can take away from his training and performance at the Games.
The athletes representing team Solomon Islands have done everyone proud at these games and it was long distance runner Rosefelo Siosi who took to the track today in the Men’s 5000m.
Over the gruelling twelve and a half laps of the track the athletes not only test their respiratory ability but their tactical one, as they carefully plan when to make a move, whilst leaving enough energy to counterattack an opponent's plans.
After the first 1000 metres Rosefelo completed the distance in a time of 3:10:30, and as he made his way around the track he gradually wound up his tactical plan.
At the halfway point Siosi had clocked 8:46:10 and the hope was if he kept up that pace, he would set a marker for the season.
With 1000m to go the 25-year-old was at 10:14:40 and every lap was one step closer to the finish line.
The athlete had one lap of the track left to go and stepped up another gear as he tried to motor round Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, with a final lap clocking in at just over one minute, the Solomon Islands runner finished in a time of 17:26:93, a new season’s best.
Samoa's Ato Leau Plodzicki-Faoagali was in semi-final action at Birmingham's NEC arena taking on fellow Pacific Oceania nation Niue for a place in the Gold medal match.
So far Ato has been in great form and as the boxer in the blue corner walked out in front of a packed arena there was a sense of calmness from the athlete. Ato had previously won Silver at the 2018 Gold Coast Games and hoped he could go one further.
As the bell rang it was Duken Holo Tutakitoa-Williams who landed the first few points of the bout, as both athletes danced around the ring. Ato landed several counter punches to a flurry of attacks from Niue's boxer.
Both boxers were giving it their all as they swapped body blows, Ato used his pace to stay in the centre of the ring and control his opponents whereabouts and at the end of round one it was Duken from Niue who four of the judges had leading.
At the start of round two Ato stepped up his work rate another level and continued to land heavy blows to his opponent, who was ducking and diving out of the way.
The match was of high intensity, and you could tell it meant so much to both boxers. As the clapper rang Ato had all five judges saying he won the round 10-9.
Going into the final round it was nicely poised as a big round lay in wait. The final three minutes was a cagey affair as the boxers traded blow for blow, ultimately the judges decided unanimously that it was Samoa's Ato that won the bout, meaning he will go for Gold tomorrow against England's Lewis Williams.
The pair embraced at the end of the bout to show that there is true friendship between our Pacific nations and even in competition we will always support each other.
It was a big match for both boxers and Ato had a few words for Niue’s Duken Holo Tutakitoa-Willians, “It was a good, hard fight and I take my hat off to him. He made history for Niue and as a fellow Pacific Island brother all love to him and congratulations, tough boy, who hit some good body shots.”
On his next opponent Ato said, “I fought this guy many years ago and lost a 2-3 split, it is not revenge but I want to box to my full potential and get the win.”
In the Men’s Freestyle Wrestling 97kg division it was an all-Pacific Oceania clash in the quarter finals as Samoa’s Maulalo Alofip and Tonga’s Sione Sika went head to head for a place in the semi-finals.
After the whistle was blown, both competitors rushed into the middle of the ring to grapple with each other and gain control. Both wrestlers tried to entice the other to make a move as they pushed each other around the mat. It was Maulalo who struck first, forcing his opponent out of the ring to get one point.
Tonga’s Sione attempted to make several moves by bringing Maulalo to the floor, which were unsuccessful and allowed Samoa’s wrestler to perform a takedown, adding two points to his tally.
As the pair got to their feet they quickly locked heads once more, the Tongan again took to the floor trying to get some points on the board, but Maulalo countered and scored several two point moves that took the score to 11-0 and sealing a place in the semi-finals.
Just 25 minutes later Maulalo was back out into the arena on Mat B to take on South Africa’s Nicolaas de Lange for a place in the Gold medal match.
A quick start and the South African raced into an 8-0 lead and wrapped up a quick victory 10-0, but importantly Maulalo still had a shot at getting a medal and was in the Bronze medal match a few hours later.
Maulalo’s opponent in the Bronze medal match was Australian Thomas Barns and the two went head to head, in an exciting match. Samoa’s wrestler gave it his all and tried to pin the Aussie but unfortunately Thomas was able to string together a number of takedowns and throws to win the bout 12-0.
The Samoan Wrestler should be extremely proud that he reached a medal match and it shows you should never give up. On being part of team Samoa Maulalo said, “It's an honour and a privilege and I just wanna make my country proud and my people and my family and my friends and my loved ones.”
At Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, Samoa had a quartet lining up in the Men’s 4x100m relay heats. The team of William Hunt, Kelvin Masoe, Johnny Key and Jeremy Dodson were in Lane 7 as they took the baton round the track in front of a thrilled crowd. After clean transitions the team crossed in a new season's best of 40.60 seconds, narrowly missing out of the next round.
Over at the University of Birmingham Hockey and Squash Centre, Papua New Guinea’s Men’s Doubles team of Feonor Siaguru and Suari Madako were in the Men’s Doubles quarter finals in the plate division.
In game 1 it was their opponents Guyana’s Jason-Ray Khalil and Shomari Wiltshire who scored the first point of the match to go into an early lead, before PNG’s team instantly replied and then got in front. The teams then traded points until Feonor and Suari made a decisive break to get a two-point lead over their opponents at 7-5.
The duo then had complete control over the match winning five points in an arrow to lead 10-5. Guyana’s team scored another point before PNG wrapped up the game in 9 minutes.
Heading into game two, if PNG won they would be through to the semi-finals or they would be taken to a deciding set. As Feanor and Madako took to the court they got off to a solid start taking the first two points. Whilst Guyana’s men did get a point back, PNG dominated the match. With some thrilling rallies the duo raced into a 9-2 lead. The team only needed one opportunity to take the game and the match in 8 minutes.
Tomorrow the team heads into the plate semi-finals to take on Cayman Islands.
Team PNG were in Women’s 4 x 100m relay action with the quartet of Adrine Monagi, Toea Wisil, Isila Apkup and Leonie Beu. In Lane 5 the team were second quickest off the blocks, with Leonie having a reaction time of 0.132, with clean changeovers the team crossed the line in a time of 45.38 seconds, a new personal best for the nation and they were just squeezed out of the final.
Yesterday Duken Holo Tutakitoa-Williams made history for Niue as he won the country's first ever medal at a Commonwealth Games, after he won his quarter final bout to guarantee at least a Bronze medal in the Men’s Boxing Heavyweight division.
On making history at these games Duken said, “it hasn’t really hit me yet but I know everyone back home is proud of me. I’ve heard I’m the talk of the nation and it means a lot to me to represent Niue. I hope any Niuean who wants to follow in my footsteps and make the nation proud, should go for it.”
Today he was in a bout against fellow Pacific Islander Ato Leau Plodzicki-Faoagali from Samoa. Both boxers headed into the competition knowing they had already secured a medal and now it was a matter of what colour.
With the Niue team and fans cheering him, Duken walked out high in confidence and with a determination to get the win. At the start of the match Duken was able to land some early punches to the Samoan boxer. Duken’s quick feet meant he was dancing around the outer edge of the ring and tasked his opponent to keep up, and avoid the Niue boxers' punches.
Some solid combinations meant that Duken was in a strong position heading towards the end and four out of five judges had him the leader after round one.
Whilst Samoan Ato stepped up in the second, as did Duken, he darted around the ring and even when his opponent landed key blows, the boxer's movement did not slow as he tried to cause issues for Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali.
The crowd were being treated to a thriller inside the busy NEC arena with thunderous applause ringing around as the athletes went into the break before the third round. The judges all thought the Samoan had taken the second round, making the third and final round even more important.
The final round saw both boxers give it their all to get the win. Duken and Ato traded blows and combinations to see who would ultimately come out on top. The sound of the bell signalled the end of the bout and Samoa’s Ato was declared the winner. Both boxers hugged each other as a sign of respect for the top quality match everyone had just witnessed. It was also a great show of solidarity and how Pacific Oceania are one big family.
After sharing a ring with a fellow athlete from the Pacific, Duken had this to say about the match, “Ato’s calibre is high and he is a tough opponent to go against. I came in as an underdog and I still gave him a good fight. After the first round my coach told me to keep doing what I was doing, but I lost it slightly, so I will go back and look at what happened but I’m happy.”
Yeshnil Karan from Fiji was the teams last athlete in these Commonwealth Games as he lined up in the Men’s 5000m in Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium. Unfortunately for Yeshnil around 2400m he was unable to finish and pulled out of the race. We wish Yeshnil well. Team Fiji have had a great Games and go home with four medals.
The Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Norfolk Island and Tuvalu have all finished their Commonwealth Games schedule, with no more athletes due to compete. Whether you are heading home or staying for the Closing Ceremony we want to say a massive well done to all of the athletes, officials and coaches who have made these Games an incredible feat for Pacific Oceania sport.
Tomorrow, we have the Gold medal match for the Men’s Heavyweight division, which will see Ato Leau Plodzicki-Faoagali take on England’s Lewis Williams. Vanuatu’s Beach Volleyball team of Miller Pata and Sherysyn Toko have their Bronze medal match, a thrilling end to our Commonwealth Games.
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